Among the Thugs

Length: 7 Pages 1671 Words

“One of the causes of the downfall of Rome was that people, being fed by the State… ceased to have any responsibility for themselves or their children, and consequently became a nation of wasters. They frequented circuses, where paid performers appeared before them in the arena, much as we see the crowds now flocking to look on at paid players playing football… Thousands of boys and young men, pale, narrow-chested, hunched-up, miserable specimens, smoking endless cigarettes, numbers of them betting, all of them learning to be hysterical as they groan or cheer in panic unison with their neighbors—the worst sound of all being the hysterical scream of laughter that greets anu little trip or fall of a player. One wonders whether this can be the same nation which had gained for itself the reputation of being a stolid, pipe-sucking manhood, unmoved by panic of excitement, and reliable in the tightest of places. Get the lads away from this—teach them to be manly.” R. Baden-Powell Scouting for Boys (1908) “Among the Thugs” by Bill Buford offers a rare, daring and often grotesque look into the nature of crowd violence. Buford is an American journalist that studied at Cambridge. Throughout the book we a Continue...

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There are times in the book when it seems that Buford does not know where he is going with his story or his research, he strays from the subject in parts and goes into unnecessary detail. While giving due credit to these men and their work, Buford challenges their credibility, because they analyzed this crowd behavior from the outside, and never knew what it was like to be in the midst of the crowd. I know one thing; I am going to stay the hell away from football matches if I ever visit Europe. It is amazing to see how completely opposite the two are. Buford states, " Violence is one of the most intensely lived experiences and, for those capable of giving themselves over to it, is one of the most intense pleasures. Fortunately it is rare in American society; hopefully it will not become common of our culture any time soon. This appetite for violence has been in existence since the beginning of civilization, it seems to be human nature. I felt the energy of the crowd, and witnessed its menacing effect. Buford thoroughly illustrates the nature of this extreme and form of social deviance. Buford compares some of the things that have been observed about crowds by past sociologists, and philosophers such as Plato, who said "A crowd is like a flock of sheep and a pack of wolves, and Gustave LeBon, the "father of all crowd theory, who said, "A crowd is in a fever, in delirium, in a state of hypnosis. They explain that the reason people use knives is because the police have gotten so good at anticipating and then dismantling the mobs, so they do as much damage with amount of time that they do have. His journeys take him to a number of different European cities, bars, stadiums, and violent outbreaks. The first time that he witnesses the supporters in a violent riot, he quickly recognizes how organized and effective these people are at rioting. ------------------------------------------------------------------------Bibliography. Crowd theory has provided insight as to why and how crowds become violent, but rarely what happens or what it feels like to participate.


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